Lancashire Times
Weekend Edition
4:23 PM 18th November 2021

Business Reacts To Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) Announcement

Stephen Church, North Markets Leader and Manchester Office Managing Partner comments on the Integrated Rail Plan (IRP) announcement: “As businesses continue to invest and grow across the whole North region, improved transport infrastructure and rail connectivity is essential to ensure the maximum economic impact from such developments is unlocked.

Stephen Church
Stephen Church
“Although positives can be drawn from the IRP, including the two new high-speed lines planned between Crewe to Manchester and Warrington to Manchester - which are vital links into the city - and the electrification of lines across Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester, today’s announcement will leave many feeling more must be done.

"Whatever the final plan will look like, it’s important that it benefits and enhances the lives of people who live and work in the North, especially given announced delays to the HS2 eastern leg. To truly level up the region, the integrated rail plan must allow people to travel efficiently between areas, and make informed travel choices which support the country’s net-zero ambitions.

“In turn, today’s announcement has created even more anticipation for the delayed White Paper on Levelling Up. Now is the time to turn good-willed policy aimed at tackling entrenched regional inequalities and closing the skills gap into meaningful action.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
“The Northern Powerhouse Rail plan has been cut back beyond recognition.

“By scrapping the HS2 Leeds branch and Manchester to Leeds line, this government has removed a lynchpin of the Northern Powerhouse. Around this hole, regional development plans will unravel. Plans that would have brought good jobs and greater prosperity.

“The Midlands and the North have the talent to compete with the world. But they need the infrastructure to match. Yet again, there is a gulf between what the Prime Minister promises, and what he delivers.”

Shevaun Haviland
Shevaun Haviland
Also reacting to the news that the eastern leg of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail will no longer proceed as planned, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said:

“This will be huge disappointment to the thousands of businesses that were relying on HS2 and NPR to fire up economic regeneration through the improved capacity and connectivity of our rail network.

“While some places will benefit from these revised proposals, many companies have built their plans for the future around what they believed was a firm commitment from government to see these projects through in full.

“The economic benefits that they would have brought to areas across the Midlands and the North would have improved the lives of countless generations and created growth opportunities for businesses across the country.

“There is also grave concern that without more capacity on our railways, any significant progress on shifting more freight transportation off our roads and onto the rail network will be stymied, making it much more difficult to achieve our net zero ambitions.”

The Chamber View from across our regions

East Lancashire Chamber, Chief Executive, Miranda Barker, said:

“Dialling back the investment in the north on the HS2 eastern leg and NPR will severely limit the economic benefits of the plan and its contribution to levelling up, for both the North’s and the UK’s benefit.

“This decision will limit the boost to northern supply chains’ from building the system, hamper the ability to broaden the economically active area for the local workforce, hold back plans to increase freight capacity on the rail network, restrict the decarbonisation benefits and damage the UK’s competitiveness for our global exports.”

Doncaster Chamber Chief Executive, Dan Fell, said:

“Although this announcement doesn’t come with much surprise, this is deeply disappointing news for businesses and communities in the North of the country. If the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are to fulfil their promise of levelling up the country, then this Government by U-turn must stop. Failing to do so will undermine business and investor confidence and risk fundamentally damaging the long-term economic strategies of towns and cities that are plotting routes out of the pandemic to economic recovery.

“This decision goes far beyond issues of connectivity - supply chain and job creation opportunities have also been undermined today; indeed, a great many businesses and organisations who were in the process of gearing up and skilling up to be part of the HS2 supply chain; a reduction in ambition by government has jeopardised these opportunities for many regional businesses.”

North East of England Chamber, Chief executive, John McCabe, said:

“The Government’s integrated rail plan fails to deliver on the levelling up agenda and give much-need commitment to transformational projects for the North. Without the full delivery of Northern Powerhouse Rail, the eastern leg of HS2 and improved capacity on the East Coast Main Line our region’s potential will continue to be held back.

“The Government had previously committed to Northern Powerhouse Rail and set up bodies like Transport for the North to advise on rail connectivity. Failing to listen to them and Northern leaders on the need to invest demonstrates that there is a lag between rhetoric and action on levelling up."

West & North Yorkshire Chamber, Chair, Amanda Beresford, said:

“After 11 years of campaigning for improved rail connectivity both within and across our region, today’s announcements are extremely disappointing and will call into question just how serious this government is, on its levelling up promises.

“At their heart, HS2 and NPR are not just transport projects, they are the game-changing backbone of the levelling-up agenda when taken in the spirit of the original vision. These projects shouldn’t be viewed as simply a faster way to get to and from London, but an essential component to rebalancing the UK’s economy by connecting people more efficiently with the jobs and education opportunities across our region.”

Greater Manchester Chamber, Chris Fletcher, Policy Director at the Chamber, said:

“After such a prolonged and delayed build up we were really expecting a lot more from the Integrated Rail Plan around brand-new lines, investment and capacity where they are needed most, linking the major economic centres across the north and opening access to the Midlands and beyond.

“Instead, we have a patchwork quilt of upgrades that roughly costs the same, will mean greater disruption to existing users and will not deliver the capacity uplift that is needed. More trains on existing track can only result in a poorer service than at present. We have been down this route before following years of upgrades on the West Coast Mainline that went over budget, over timescale, created huge disruption for passengers and didn’t deliver the long-term improvements they needed to.”